Near Field Communication (NFC) a wireless technology for transmitting information, promises to make our lives easier. Reminds us of the nine words you should always fear whenever you hear them: "We're from the government, and we're here to help."
As with all new technologies, the benefits also come with inherent risks. In the case of NFC, knowledge is power. Knowing the risks may enable you to avoid becoming a another victim of technology.
What Are The Risks?
Risk Number 1: Loss. Two rules to live by in a mobile, digital world: Secure your device; and don't lose it. Sure having all your payment information for multiple credit and debit cards in one place seems modern and convenient. And yes having to access your device with a password or other security method can be a real pain when you are in a hurry. But if you are carrying your entire financial life around with you, with potentially thousands of dollars at risk, you had better treat that with the utmost of caution. Think about what could happen if your device was not password protected and you lost it. In a matter of moments you could be wiped out. Losing your phone, together with all of the information inside is far worse than losing the bit cash that's in your pocket, for those that still carry cash that is, and we hope you do!
We hope your device is password protected, and with the new iPhones with Touch ID, you have even more protection. And not only that you probably even have a way to track your phone if it gets lost or stolen. But don't think that will save you completely. Did you know from the lockscreen the tracking location system could be easily disabled? In newer versions of iOS there is something called "control center" that is accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Over there many things can be done such as turning on Wifi, adjusting screen brightness, etc. The phone can be also put into Airplane Mode which turns off any celluar or wifi connection thus making it impossible for you to track your iPhone. The control center can even be accessed from the lockscreen. While the thief might have a hard time of getting into your phone, he can sure make it possible so that you could never track it. In order to turn off control center that appears on the lock screen, go to settings, then control center, and toggle the slider off for "Access on Lock Screen".
Now that you have been sufficiently warned about the basics, here are some more sophisticated risks that you need to be aware of.
Risk Number 2: Eavesdropping. This risk occurs when a bad guy intercepts the signal transmitted between your smartphone and a reader. With that information the bad guy can potentially gain access to your credit card or other personal information. How to prevent this? Much like a skimmer device on an ATM, eavesdropping is very hard to detect and prevent. Your best bet is to know the merchants you use, and monitor your account for any suspicious activity.
Risk Number 3: Manipulation. Here the bad guy takes eavesdropping one step further, by capturing and changing the data. This could result in invalid transaction information being sent and can often be part of an effort to disrupt services for both consumers and merchants. As with eavesdropping, hard to detect or prevent.
Risk Number 4: Infection. Viruses on computers have been around for years. Viruses on smartphones are becoming more common now that there is so much valuable data on smartphones for bad guys to steal. Consumers need to take the same steps in protecting their smartphones that they do for their computers. Know the source of the apps you install and be sure you have software that can detect if you do encounter one of the new viruses.
Sounds Bad? Be Vigilant!
Every new technology is vunerable to manipulation, viruses, etc. And while much of this may be difficult to prevent, the key to winning in this game is to simply remain aware. Be careful where you shop, and always download apps from a reputable location -- the Google Play Store, Apple App Store, or Amazon App Store. Monitor your accounts for suspicious activity. If an unauthorized charge turns up, while it may a pain to deal with, banks with best-in-class customer service can help you get your money back quickly. In the end we all must embrace the new technology -- it's here to stay. But we also must secure the cash in our pocket at all times, whether physical or electronic. By taking these simple steps we can reduce the risks and enjoy the benefits that NFC promises to bring.